By Evalin Brautigam
On November 8th, 2018, 34 students from five middle schools in Cambridge competed in the 2018 Fall Middle School Orienteering Championships. The format was a four-leg relay, with generally two but some with three athletes on each relay team. Each leg had seven checkpoints and was approximately 1.1 kilometers from point-to-point. Since orienteering is a map navigation race the actual course length depended on the route that each runner chose to take. The participating schools were Cambridge Street Upper School (CSUS), Amigos, Vassal Lane Upper School (VLUS), Rindge Avenue Upper School (RAUS), and Putnam Avenue Upper School (PAUS).
The winning team was Ben Davis and Paul Magalhaes from CSUS with a total time of 27:51 and the second place team with a time of 31:07 was Bruce Raymond and Sam Greene, also from CSUS, who were the champions in the spring. When asked if they were ready to defend their title, they stated that they were uncertain whether they would win again as their competition looked faster this year. In third place we had Sebastian Presana and Virginia Wintners from Amigos.
The race took place at Danehy Park, where they used a map of the park provided by Cambridge Sports Union. There was high tech timing equipment and results tracking thanks to Ed Despard, who is a member of CSU. The runners had two different courses, but with the timing cards we are able to tell which course they ran once they finish and if they did it correctly. For any checkpoint they missed there was a 1 minute penalty, but if a team was fast, sometimes the penalty didn’t displace their finish result. The course also allowed for a “spectator loop”. This meant that the kids who were not running and waiting for their partners could at one point see them running by during the race. This gave more excitement and they were able to cheer for their teammates before the end of the race. After each handoff, the teams waited intently to see who would come in first each time and many kids were coming in very close to each other. There was one runner from CSUS, Hillowe, who hadn’t come back in a while, but then we saw him coming through on the spectator portion he didn’t give up and made sure to finish his race. Some of his teammates even went out and ran with him and cheered him on.
Leading up to the champs, the teams spent 4-5 weeks practicing their orienteering skills, coached by Evalin Brautigam who has represented the US internationally in orienteering for a few years. The practices were generally different variations of orienteering courses with different focuses each week in order to improve their overall map reading.